Rovers U18s fell to defeat in their first match of 2024 as they were beaten by Mansfield Town on the Eco-Power Stadium 3G.
McKeal Abdullah scored the game’s only goal from the penalty spot halfway through the opening period but that proved to be enough for the visitors to secure all three points in the EFL Youth Alliance League.
The result sees the youth team sit ninth in the North East division of the Youth Alliance as they approach the halfway point of the league campaign.
The Stags found the first opening of the game after finding success down the left and cutting inside but the winger’s shot was sent high and wide.
The theme of the game would soon be found though with back and forth attacks and Rovers found their first as a goal bound cross from the right had to be dealt with by the Mansfield stopper.
Another chance apiece went by with Will Green narrowly missing the bottom right corner with a free kick but the search for the opener went on.
Mansfield would find themselves with the golden opportunity to break the deadlock though on 21 minutes as pressure on Rovers defence told and the visitors won a penalty from a mistimed Jacob Bacon challenge.
First-year professional Abdullah stepped up, sent Jacob Bryant the wrong way and opened the scoring with a shot into the bottom right corner.
Abdullah had another chance moments later with a low shot at goal from outside the box but saw the ball rolled wide.
Bryant was then forced to make a couple of great saves to keep the deficit at one goal and Rovers were forced to defend their box but they then set about finding a route back into the game.
On 36 minutes Rovers thought they’d won a penalty of their own as Green’s cross was headed towards goal by Freddie Allen and handled by a Mansfield defender but the referee waved play on.
That would be the youth team’s final clear cut chance of the half though and Frank Sinclair’s side went into the break a goal behind.
The hosts did find the first chance of the second half with Jaiden Campbell-Ryce taking on a shot from range but the ball flew both high and wide of the Mansfield goal.
More Rovers chances followed as well as a string of corners but the home side failed to make them count and the visitors almost doubled their lead with a curling shot from the right but it drifted across the face of goal.
At the other end, Charlie Thompson picked up on Bryant’s long ball and attempted to lob the keeper with a first time effort but the ball drifted off course at the last to roll wide.
Thompson had another chance approaching the final 20 minutes as the ball presented itself to the winger in the goalmouth but the youngster was off balance and sent his shot wide.
Mansfield then had two chances from close range but neither really troubled the Rovers goal and the hosts continued their pursuit of an equaliser.
Sinclair’s side piled on the pressure in the final minutes and had the ball in the back of the net from a corner but the referee deemed there to have been a foul against the Stags keeper in the build-up.
Rovers had another two chances from late corners but the goal somehow evaded them and Mansfield held on for all three points.
The youth team will now look to regroup and bounce back from defeat at the first time of asking as they travel to Notts County in the EFL Youth Alliance League on Saturday, January 13.